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Segmentation is the cornerstone of any successful email marketing strategy. Most likely you already know this, and that’s why you’re reading this guide. Savvy marketers know the importance of segmentation and agree with these statistics:

  • Segmented campaigns can lead to a 760% increase in revenue (DMA).
  • 39% of email marketers that practice list segmentation see better open rates, and 24% see increased sales leads (eMarketer).
  • 56% of people unsubscribe from emails due to content that’s no longer relevant to them (Chadwick Martin Bailey).

Many marketers never make it past the basics when it comes to segmentation, only employing simple demographics like age and gender to group their subscribers. And while this can be useful, it can also be short-sighted and sometimes ineffective.

In this guide, we’ll cover a wide range of ways you can segment and give you some practical ways to put meaning behind your newfound groupings. But first, let’s define this marketing tactic.

Chapter 1

Definition of segmentation

From our own glossary entry, we define segmentation as: the division of email subscribers into smaller segments based on set criteria. The “set criteria” is what divides one subscriber from another, giving you context for what a subscriber is like or what their interests may be. Based on this separation of subscribers, you can create messages that are extremely relevant, writing communication based on assumptions from the segment type.

There are many unique ways that you can segment, which we’ll explore in the next section. And not only are there many different criteria from which you can separate subscribers, when you begin combining different segments to delve deeper into personas and unique subsets of subscribers, you can compound the power of your segmentation to be even greater.

Each email service provider approaches the creation of segments in different ways. With Campaign Monitor, you can create segments based on subscriber details, custom fields, or campaign activity. Operating from these options, you can create an endless combination of segment criteria to isolate a very unique set of subscribers.

And the benefit of identifying this unique set of subscribers? Customized, personalized, and relevant messages that can increase your revenue 760%.

Chapter 2

Ways to segment your subscribers

Bringing back this conversation of segment criteria, let’s look at some of the ways you can divide your subscribers to understand their habits and communicate with them more effectively.

As you begin strategizing about how to group your subscribers, don’t forget to combine some of these segmentation methods. The more specific you can get into your list, the more catered your messages can be. And don’t forget—personalized emails can improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10% (Aberdeen).


This classic segmentation method helps you target specific personas, messaging more effectively based on common characteristics.


This segmentation type is perfect for product and goods companies. If your goods are categorized by gender, then your emails should be as well.

Quick note: Make sure you’ve collected the right data. Consider loopholes that may cause misinformation, like a customer buying a gift for someone of the opposite gender. Track engagement over time, and if there’s a trend of disinterest in your gender-specific emails, send a segmented message asking them to update their preferences with correct information.


Separating subscribers based on location (city, zip, state, province) is a perfect method for event-based communications. Partner location-specific segments with dynamic content, and you’ll be able to send specific details about an event for each location, while saving time by sending a single campaign.

Birthdays and anniversaries

Everyone loves birthday emails and offers. Giving away a simple coupon or offering brings unique click rates up 179% over promotional emails. And not only are click rates increased, but birthday emails generate 342% higher revenue than promotional emails (Experian). If your sales are based more on special occasions, keeping track of your customers’ anniversaries is a great way to show you care—as well as increase engagement and revenue!

How your subscriber signed up

This can make a huge difference as to how you communicate with your customer or subscriber. You should track whether your subscriber signed up via your website, an event, your blog, social media, or from a purchase. Your email content, cadence, and tone should align with how your subscriber has interacted with you in the past.

Date of last purchase or last log in

Dividing subscribers based on their last purchase date is perfect for generating repeat business. Was their last purchase recent? Reward them with a coupon or send a product offering that’s similar to their last purchase. If their last purchase was months ago, try sending them a series of offers to inspire them to come back.

Response results

This refers to the way a subscriber responds to an email. You can use this type of data in a number of ways. One is to send a follow-up to those who opened your last campaign to remind them of what they read. For those that didn’t open, try resending the campaign with a different subject line, and you might get 10% to 40% more opens. And if you’re sending newsletters with a variety of content, make sure to track your results so you can send more of your popular content.

Creating segments based on response results can also present two types of segments: most engaged and least engaged. These two groups consist of subscribers and customers that are typically overlooked and underutilized in terms of segments. It’s great to have super engaged email recipients, and frustrating to have illusive, disinterested people in your email audience. Yet many marketers ignore these segments because they’re either afraid to ruin a good thing, or fearful of saying goodbye to names on a list.

The next section will give you some great detail and examples of how you can interact with these two segments, in addition to others.

Chapter 3

Segmentation in practice

Segmenting as a method sounds great, but sometimes putting this strategy into practice provides a different set of challenges. But what good is a tactic if you don’t have a way to execute it?

Taking some of the segmentation types from the last section, let’s look at a few examples of how to create and send email campaigns that come to life when paired with targeted segments.

Send source-based welcome emails

As a marketer, welcome emails should be nothing new to you. But many marketers—maybe even most marketers—create generic welcome emails for everyone that enters their subscriber list. And while a generic email is better than no welcome email, there are smart ways to use segmentation as a booster to your welcome email or welcome series.

Crafting a welcome email series based on the way your subscriber signed up can cultivate some extra feelings of warmth and relevance. This is an easy way to personalize your emails, since there are likely a limited amount of ways a subscriber can sign up for your list.

There are three steps to sending source-based welcome emails. First you need to make sure you identify all the possible routes that someone can take to become a subscriber. After determining these routes, you’ll make sure your email marketing platform is set up to tag subscribers with their respective signup source using custom fields. Finally, set up an automated email series to welcome them.

Step 1: Identify signup sources

Here are some subscriber sources to get your brainstorming started:

  • homepage or website signup
  • blog signup
  • e-commerce signup
  • event registration signup
  • in-person signup at an event
  • social media signup
  • in-store signup

Don’t forget that these email signups need to be GDPR compliant. This means your subscriber needs to explicitly give permission for you to email them marketing campaigns. Otherwise you shouldn’t be sending this person messages, as you could be out of compliance with current email laws.

Step 2: Tag each subscriber with custom fields

Various email service providers use different terms for this, but at Campaign Monitor we refer to this type of data as a custom field. Custom fields can hold just about any type of information, including the way your subscriber was added to your list.

Once you have a subscribe form live on a website or other online page, you need to make sure this form is capturing the information that identifies where that subscriber came from. Your form-builder may label this feature as a “hidden field,” which can pass signup source information automatically when someone fills out the form.

This behind-the-scenes tagging of each subscriber will allow you to properly segment them. Without it, you may be missing out on vital subscriber data.

Step 3: Set up your welcome emails

The last step is to create automated journeys for these welcome emails. Now that you’ve identified the sources from which people may be added to your email list, you can begin crafting emails specific to these subscribers, and set up a series of messages to be sent automatically.

Think about how each subscriber signed up for your list, and make sure to include language about how they discovered your organization and signed up. While signups from your website may have more generic information, you can get really specific with event-based signups or signups from a purchase.

Creating several specific welcome email series not only show you’re writing specifically to that subscriber, but they will also potentially create 33% more long-term brand engagement.

Chapter 4

Re-engage inactive and silent subscribers

It’s common to have a portion of subscribers that are inactive, disengaged, or altogether silent in terms of their interaction with your emails. There are a number of reasons why someone may wander into this group:

  • they’re no longer interested in the content you send.
  • they feel undervalued by your brand.
  • they no longer have a need that your company can fill.
  • they receive irrelevant or non-personalized messages.
  • they didn’t actually opt-in to your list.

Regardless of why they’ve landed in this segment, it’s time to re-engage these subscribers. To do so, you need to segment this group send them either a reactivation campaign, or a re-engagement (or win-back) campaign. Depending on their level of inactivity, it may be time to either fight for their attention, or let them opt out of your messages.

For example, even if they don’t open a win-back email, 45% of them will read subsequent mailings, according to Return Path. And sometimes they may even wait two months before clicking on one of your emails. So this group of inactive subscribers needs to be approached very carefully, and with decisions strongly pointing to data.

Take a look at some types of inactive subscribers and what you can do to either win back their attention or clean up your email list.

How to determine who is a silent subscriber

It’s very likely that you have people on your list that are just that—simply names on a list. Looking at the very low end of the spectrum, a silent subscriber (we call them Ghosts) is one that has never been active toward your emails. They may have signed up because of an offer you ran, or a promotion that included the act of signing up for your email. Segmenting this group further to discover how they signed up might actually show you trends as to what’s not working about your signup flows and welcomes series.

At some level, no matter how they signed up, you have to deal with the facts. Ghost subscribers are those that haven’t engaged with your email marketing, and their disengagement needs to be addressed.

What to do with a silent subscriber

If identifying your Ghost subscribers is the first step, a reactivation email is the second. This email needs to effectively ask this question: “Are you still interested in hearing from us?”

Spend some focused time, effort, and testing on the subject line for this email. Since it’s the last message some of your recipients will receive, you need to make sure you give it your best shot at getting noticed in their inbox. And since these subscribers haven’t opened an email from you in the last year, you really need to make the subject line appealing, pulling them into their next step.

The email itself can be short and sweet. Ask whether they want to keep receiving your emails, and then state that if not, they can either unsubscribe or ignore the email.

On your end, this is a great opportunity to set up some automated steps, saving you time and effort. Create an automated journey for your list, triggering a recommitment email to be sent after twelve months of no email activity. The final step of automation is to unsubscribe your recipient if they don’t show any activity or signs that they’re still interested.

How to determine an inactive subscriber

Inactive subscribers aren’t quite on the lowest end of engagement, but they’re still in need of attention. These are people that haven’t opened your emails in the last six months, or maybe have only opened one or two in the last twelve months.

Segmenting this group by a few different response criteria is a strong tactic to take a broad approach (e.g. combining a segment of people that haven’t opened emails in the last six months with a segment of people that have only opened one or two in the last twelve months).

What to do with an inactive subscriber

These dormant subscribers are ripe for re-engagement. The key is to focus intensely on winning them back before they totally drop off the map. Aim to begin sending them a re-engagement campaign or series just on the cusp of their disinterest. Wait too long, and they’ll become less and less interested in what you have to say.

A re-engagement campaign will differ based on the desired activity, since a dormant subscriber doesn’t necessarily have to be categorized only by email opens. These activities will likely change based on your industry, but may include:

  • opening your company’s app.
  • viewing a video.
  • taking advantage of a promotional offer.
  • using a coupon code for their next purchase.
  • reading unique content about how others are using your company’s product.
  • extending a trial period.

And if actions within emails aren’t your goal, and you’re focused on more engaged email views, you can make this re-engagement email similar to your recommitment email. Provide a simple line of text asking the viewer if they are still interested in receiving your content, coupons, offers, etc., and then give them a way out.

The same can be said here as before—automate this process! Craft a single email that can be sent automatically after a specific time of lowered engagement. This will keep your list hygiene up while keeping your list of to-do’s down.

Why you should remove disinterested subscribers

Removing subscribers from your list isn’t actually a bad thing. In short, this will actually make your marketing strategy more effective, and could show helpful improvement to your revenue over time.

Giving the recipient a way off of your list can provide a handful of perks:

  • may lower the bill for your ESP.
  • give you more accurate information on your active list.
  • raise your open and click-through rates, which will…
  • help your emails get delivered to more inboxes.
Chapter 5

Promote active and engaged subscribers

Just as inactive subscribers are important to address in your email marketing strategy, active subscribers can hold just as much weight in affecting your business. Some may argue that they won’t need quite as much attention since they’re already doing what you’re wanting—actively engaging. But a lack of attention may mean unused potential and missed opportunity.

Your most engaged subscribers are those that open almost every email and click through to your CTA whenever possible. This group is probably full of your biggest advocates, so it’s time to brainstorm how you can take their engagement to the next level.

How to boost your active subscribers

The challenge your active subscribers pose is not getting them to engage. Most of the time, it’s figuring out how to access their untapped potential.

There are numerous ways to take advantage of these zealous subscribers, some of which depend on your offerings and goals. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Communicate with this group as “VIPs” or “star members” and give them discounts or offers based on their loyalty.
  • Ask for reviews to boost your online presence.
  • Invite them to take next steps with you, like following you on social media or coming into your store.
  • Mobilize these subscribers to share with friends in a referral program.
  • Ask for feedback about your product.
  • Give them a survey to discover more about your customers.
  • Offer unique products that only these loyal subscribers can receive.
  • Send event invitations to this group first.

A lot of your work empowering this group of engaged subscribers is in writing compelling copy. Even if you’re not offering something extremely unique to this group of people, put your copy through the lens of customer appreciation. Making them feel valued will go a long way, especially as you invite them to take next steps in promoting your brand.

Chapter 6

Wrap up

Segmentation has incredible potential to empower your brand. There really is almost no limit to the specificity and personalization of your emails using segmentation. And while approaching this powerful technique may be daunting, this guide should provide a solid foundation on which you can build your segmentation strategy.

Whether you’re approaching new subscribers or re-engaging old ones, smart segmenting can lead to a boost in email effectiveness. Take these ideas and start implementing new ways to send more personalized messages today.

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